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Toxic Behavior Destroys Team Trust

A prerequisite for effective and high-performing teams is trust among its members. According to Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, trust is foundational to team effectiveness. Improving an absence of trust due to unfamiliarity, personality and cultural differences, or ambiguous roles and responsibilities is “relatively” straight forward for a team leader. But what about when trust is a casualty of what can only be described as toxic behavior? Bullying, backstabbing, rude and crude behavior, office politics are all examples of toxic behavior that, if left unchecked, results in low trust and an inevitable dysfunctional team.

Recent examples I’ve seen of this type of toxic behavior prompted me to think about how to deal with it. Here are a few thoughts for you to consider:

First, try some introspection. Are you, the leader, part of the problem? Do you allow toxic behavior on your team? Do your actions and words encourage it? For example, do you make exceptions or excuses for individuals that behave poorly because they “get the job done”? Or do you hold everyone, including yourself, accountable for their behavior? Have you built a culture, or allowed a culture to form, that is in contrast to company norms and values? Does your team have a set of values to which they are committed? Do they know what those values look like in action? A great first step to clearly articulating your values as a leader and setting expectations is to publish a personal leadership philosophy.

Next, if it isn’t you, it’s them. Before you proceed determine if the toxic behavior could be the result of the individual being unaware of expected behavior (see the first step) or if they’ve been rewarded in the past for unacceptable behavior. If simple education doesn’t fix the issue, try determining the root cause of the behavior. It could be a lack of maturity or emotional intelligence. If so, there could be a chance to rehabilitate the individual. However, if the person has a serious character flaw or incompatible values you may find that the team will function better without this trust destroyer on it. If this seems harsh, remember that morale and trust typically suffers among the team members forced to work with these toxic individuals. This in turn tends to result in their disengaging from their work further degrading team performance.

Often, other team members are privately wishing the leader will do something about the situation. Don’t let the possibility that the person prone to toxic behavior tends to get the job done or is a royal pain the posterior to deal with dissuade you from doing the right thing. In the end, lost productivity from disengaged team members in the vicinity of toxic team members normally outweighs any gains in productivity achieved by tolerating toxic behavior. Step up and act courageously, your team is counting on you.

Note: Interested in creating effective teams? Did you know The Daedalus Group can conduct The Five Dysfunctions of a Team workshops for either teams or team leaders? See additional information HERE

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